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Do Images Impact Ranking on Google? [Case Study]

Do Images Impact Ranking on Google [Case Study] Sterling SkyWe have been doing a lot of testing around images in the last year at Sterling Sky.  You can read about the tests we did on geotagging photos and the cover photo you select in Google My Business.  For this test, we wanted to measure how the photos you use on your website impact your organic ranking on Google.


According to this case study:

  1. Larger/better quality photos are better for ranking
  2. Having a photo that matches what Google is looking for can have a positive impact on ranking.  Having a photo that doesn’t match can have a negative impact.
  3. How much images contribute to ranking likely varies based on the query or industry.

The Case Study

There was a page about a common lawn care problem that got a decent amount of traffic but had an image that was very small (150×150) and pixelated.

how images impact ranking on google

Since the page was about lawns that were being torn up due to skunks and raccoons, I thought it would be a good idea to update the photo to a picture of a skunk.  I updated the image on the page to the one listed below.
images impact on seo

A couple of weeks later, we actually saw the ranking drop from position 2 to position 3.

impact of adding images on ranking

When I went to look at what caused the ranking drop, it became apparent that Google didn’t want a picture of a skunk.  When you searched in Google Images for that phrase, the majority of the photos showed a lawn with dirt holes all over it.

Google image search

I was able to get a larger photo from the business owner and updated the photo on the page again. Within about a week we saw the ranking of the page increase and this time it went to position 1 and took over the featured snippet.
Increase in ranking from imagesWhen we looked on Google, the featured snippet was also featuring the photo we had just added:

featured snippet with image

It’s important to note that this impact seems to vary based on the industry.  We originally tested this on a lawyer and saw no impact.  If Google is showing images in the search results (on desktop), there is a good chance they care about images more for that industry.

This study along with several others about images was presented at the LocalU event in August 2021.  Videos of the presentation are available for purchase here.




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Joy Hawkins

Joy is the owner of the Local Search Forum, LocalU, and Sterling Sky, a Local SEO agency in Canada & the USA. She has been working in the industry since 2006, writes for publications such as Search Engine Land, and enjoys speaking regularly at marketing conferences such as MozCon, LocalU, Pubcon, SearchLove, and State of Search. You can find her on Twitter or volunteering as a Product Expert on the Google My Business Forum.

This Post Has 14 Comments

  1. Hey Joy, I agree with you that we should add images that google is searching for. Also, it especially has an image search tab; yes, adding photos relevant to the keywords on a blog does matter. Keep posting more informative content.

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